Natural Traditional Chinese Martial Arts articles by Sal Canzonieri

This was my twentyth column in Han Wei Wushu, it is about the Roots of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts (Part 5)

Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
(April-May 1998 issues #34)
Article #20

Roots of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts - Empty Hand Boxing

Part 5: Sui to Tang Dynasty

By Salvatore Canzonieri, New Jersey

SUI DYNASTY (581-618 AD)

China was reunited under the rule of the Sui dynasty (581-618). After another prolonged period of disunity, a general from the northwest united China and established the new dynasty of Sui. The first Sui emperor was Yang Chien (541-604), also called Wen Ti, a military servant who usurped the throne of the non-Chinese Northern Chou in 581. Being a northwestern aristocrat, he married his daughter to the son of the Northern Chou emperor. When this son died suddenly at age 36, Yang Chien swiftly seized the throne. A second great period of imperial unity was begun.

The brief Sui reign was a time of great activity. During the next eight years, the Sui Emperor completed the conquest of South China and established his capital at Changan (now Xi`an). Emperor Wen Ti became a devout Buddhist, but also continued to exemplify Confucian virtues. He revived the centralized administrative system of the Han and reinstated competitive examinations for the selection of officials. Also, he introduced a series of economic reforms, such as reduction of the peasants' taxes, a careful census for equitable tax collection, and restoration of the equal allocation system used in the Northern Wei. Every taxable male received a grant of land, part of which was returnable when he ceased to be a taxpayer at age 60 and part of which he could pass on to his heirs. He also revived the Han system of examinations based on Confucian classics. The Great Wall was repaired at an enormous cost in human life. A canal system, which later formed the Grand Canal, was constructed to carry the rich agricultural produce of the Yangtze delta to Loyang and the north, it linked up the Huang, Huai, and Yangtze rivers and connected north and south China. Chinese control was reasserted over northern Vietnam and, to a limited degree, over the Central Asian tribes to the north and west.

Hereditary military service was abolished and command was centralized. Soldiers were drawn from peasant families, which provided men an alternative to being common laborers. These men were organized into territorial units. Weapons and large boats were confiscated by the government to prevent their use by rebels. Martial arts skills now became even more important for inclusion into the military and many people worked to perfect their skills. The Book of Sui records that the practice of Jiao Di (shuai jiao) was still greatly enjoyed by the people. On the 15th of each lunar year, great festivals for Jiao Di were held. Sui Emperor Wen tried to stop these grand events because of their great expense, but was unable to do so because they were so popular. The book Xu Gao Seng Zhuan records that Xiang Pu (boxing) was practiced by the Monks of various temples and the emperor ordered Monk Fa Tong to fight against a challenger from the western country. He easily defeated him. During the reign of the second Sui Emperor Yang Ti, the Book of Sui writes that in the year 610 AD, a month long Jiao Di event was held in Duan Men Jie that attracted people from all over the empire to compete. Emperor Yang even attended incognito to watch the special skills of the competitors. The Jiao Di tournaments continued to be a popular yearly event and became deeply rooted into the culture of the Chinese people. The art and sport of Jiao Di remained prestigious among royality and high-ranking officials trained in it for the next 300 years.

Emperor Wen Ti, having a strong interest in Buddhism, paid to rebuild and reopen Shaolin (in actuality it was not named `Shao Lin` until the Tang Dynasty) and gave it the name `Zhi Hu Si` (Ascending the Hill). He also gave Shaolin extra land (almost 1,648 acres) to farm on. In order to protect this new land, their crops, the local community, and religious treasures, the monks at Shaolin formed a militia group, consisting of `monk-soldiers that patrolled and guarded the land and the local people.` The principles followed by the monastery were changed under the Emperor`s rule. He ordered the building of two more monasteries and news of this spread all over China. Many martial artists came to Shaolin to obtain lodgings and work as guards. During the Sui and Tang dynasties, the Shaolin monks worked on perfecting and elaborating the various techniques included in their 18 Lohan Quan. Soon, the monks became very famous for their Pao Chui or Cannon Fist, and they gave exhibitions of their martial prowess, including other skills such as high jumping, wall scaling, and others. Stories tell of a monk named Wen Zai, who was very large and strong and who protected the neighboring peasants.

But, the Sui Dynasty proved to a short reign. The Sui dynasty`s early demise was attributed to the government`s tyrannical demands on the people, who bore the crushing burden of taxes and compulsory labor. These resources were overstrained in the reconstruction of the Great Wall , the completion of the Grand Canal, and in the undertaking of other construction projects, Sui Wen Ti`s premature death might have been caused by his ambitious son Yang Ti, whose grandiose projects and military campaigns ultimately led to the Sui`s downfall. Yang Ti`s overly ambitious scheme of expanding his empire led to disastrous wars. A prolonged and costly campaign against the kingdom of Champa in southern Manchuria and the kingdom of Koguryo in northern Korea, however, ended in defeat. After a series of futile expeditions, the Chinese army of over a million was defeated and forced to flee. With its prestige seriously tarnished and its population impoverished, the Sui dynasty disintegrated through a combination of popular revolts, disloyalty, and assassination soon falling to domestic rebels.

Near the end of the Sui Dynasty, without support from the Emperor, many people left Shaolin and the society broke up. As a result, thieves came to ransack the temple riches and they fought with the remaining monks. The robbers burnt down a tower and monestary, leaving only one tower intact. In 616, Emperor Yang Ti fled to the south, abandoning the Empire. In 618, Yang Ti was assassinated in an army coup; one of the coup leaders, Li Shih-min, installed his father Li Yuan, duke of T`ang, as emperor, founding the T`ang Dynasty. After about a decade, during which he was able to secure his father`s abdication, he took the throne himself in 626 as the emperor T`ai Tsung.


The T`ang dynasty era was one of strength and brilliance unprecedented in the history of Chinese civilization. Under the Tang Dynasty, China combined prosperity, cultural grandeur, aristocratic sophistication, military power, and supremacy in foreign relations to achieve an age of greatness. Every opportunity was taken to make the emperor the dominant power of the East. The capital became a mecca for traders, diplomats and seekers of culture from the Mediterranean to Japan. The arts - music, dance, literature, painting, ceramics, lacquer, metalwork - flourished in this golden age of learning. The T`ang period marked the beginnings of China`s early technological advancement over other civilizations in the fields of shipbuilding and firearms development. Papermaking was brought to the T`ang connection in the Arab world. Both reached new heights in the succeeding dynasty of Sung.

The T`ang capital at Changan (now known as Xian) was a center of culture and religious toleration. Foreign trade was conducted with Central Asia and the West over the caravan routes, and merchants from the Middle East plied their sea borne trade through the port of Guangzhou. Under the T`ang, Chinese influence was extended over Korea, southern Manchuria, and northern Vietnam. In the west, by means of alliances with Central Asian tribes, the T`ang controlled the Tarim Basin and eventually made their influence felt as far as present-day Afghanistan.

The system of civil service examinations for recruitment of the bureaucracy was so well refined at that time that its basic form survived into the 20th century. The organs of the imperial and local governments were restructured and amplified to provide a centralized administration, and an elaborate code of administrative and penal law was enacted.

The economic and military strength of the T`ang Empire was founded on a system of equal land allotments made to the adult male population. The per capita agricultural tax paid by the allotment holders was the greatest source of government income, and the periodic militia service required of them was the basis of T`ang military power. Difficulties arose, however, for the government continued to honor tax-free estates and made large grants of land to those whom it favored. As a result of population growth, by the 8th century individual allotment holders inherited greatly reduced plots of land, but the annual per capita tax remained the same. Peasants fled their allotments, thereby reducing government income and depleting the armed forces. Frontier areas could no longer be protected by militia forces. A system of commanderies was established along the borders, and defense was entrusted to non-Chinese troops and commanders.

During these times, soldiers continued to wear armor and long weapons were still important for fighting battles. Seizing and throwing remained as military arts for fighting against armored foes. The spear (qiang) was the major long weapon of the Tang troops. Many competitions were held to test spearing skills. A long red tassle was put on the end of the spears so one could watch the correct rotations of the spearing techniques (and to help absorb the blood of struck enemies). Also long sticks (shuo) were used to practice long weapon techniques. The `ge` and the `ji` were phased out on the battlefield and the sword was used instead. Also, sword techniques became more popular as a health exercise and for entertaining the people. Ken Qi Wu events were done that mixed dance and pre-arranged sword fighting forms and Po Zhen Le events that combined battle formations with sword demonstrations. The book `Zi Zhi Tong Jian` (643 AD) recorded that people used play-fight with long weapons for amusement.

While Sui Emperor Yang Ti was gone, the empire`s various military commanders found themselves in a good position to grab for power. In 617, Li Yuan, as Duke of Tang, used his armies to invade the Sui capital. But, he could not automatically take over the empire. Over 200 rebel groups also existed. Little by little, he overcame these groups, either by force or diplomacy, and by 624, he finally vanquished all organized resistance to his rule.

One such famous event, in 620, occurred when Li Yuan wished to overtake one of the remaining holdouts to his rule, the King of Zheng, Wang Shi Chong, whose troops regularly pillaged the Luo Yang countryside and raped the women. Many people starved and became refugees from the area. The Emperor`s son, Li Shi Min, asked the monks of Shaolin, which was nearby to Luo Yang, to aid him in overtaking Wang in return for preferential treatment from the Emperor. The monk Tan Tzong, who was in charge of the monastery fields near Loyang, led a group of monks to attack the city at night. One by one, they overcame Wang`s guards and captured his nephew Wang Ren Ze, leaving the city open for Li Shi Min to enter with his army. The Luoyang area, which was very close to Shaolin, was important because about 50 miles northwest was a river area that was used by most rulers of the area as a naval base.

Li rewarded the monks with a water powered grain roller, 100 kasayas, a large parcel of land (about 600 acres), and with positions as generals in the Tang Empire. Special status was given to these monk-soldiers and they were even allowed by the Emperor to have meat and wine (because the Emperor wanted them to share the feast he prepared them and did not know that Buddhists were prohibited from eating meat and wine); this was okay for the Shaolin monks because their Chan sect practiced toleration.

In 625, Emperor Li promoted Tan Tzong to `Great General Monk`. A stone stele was soon erected to commemorate the event and lists the names of the senior monks (Abbot Hui Yang, Shan Hu, and Chi Tsao) and some of those that participated, such as Tan Tzong, Pu Hi, Mong Kao, Ling Hsien, Pu Sheng, Chih Shou, Tao Kuan, Chih Hsing, and Man Feng. Records show that these monks traveled, at Li`s invitation, to the Tang capital, Changan, during a holiday festival and gave exhibitions of their skills. Monk Tan Tzong gave the emperor an exhibition of Shaolin Pao Chui (`cannon punching`). It was during this time that Shaolin got its name, instead of Chi Hu Su, as the Sui called it. Stories also tell that one of these monks, Chih Shou, was well known for his skill of pressure point striking, which was able to cause people to collapse when struck.

Shaolin was allowed to have a training school for 500 `Monk-Soldiers` From this point on, for many generations, the Shaolin monks were used as soldiers for the Emperor and controlled the mountains of the Henan region for the various Emperors in return for being allowed to perform their Buddhist duties without interference. Monks Zhi Zhu, Wai Jang, Seng Chung, and others were able to gain control of the surrounding countryside under the protection of Shaolin. Tang army generals, in their old age would often retire to Shaolin. Under these conditions, martial arts continued to develop at Shaolin, and were famous to the peoples of the times.

Because of its famous name, various martial arts experts came to visit the Shaolin temple to share their knowledge. Also, the average martial artist was not just from the military or professional body guards/escorts but rather from more undesirable pursuits. People from mercenary fighting groups, underground societies, traveling performers, wanderers, criminals, smugglers, and so on, also visited Shaolin for sanctuary. Prior to this time, the Shaolin martial arts consisted of either the Chi Mei Gun (Eyebrow Height Staff), farm implements, and empty handed (Shaolin Quan during the Tang time period still consisted only of the Luohan Quan style and its 18 techniques.). The visiting experts taught the monks to use of the staff and soon they applied such techniques to their Monk's Spade and common objects. Eventually, through the influence of outsiders with military experience, other weapons were adopted and mastered such as the spear, the dagger, the broad sword, the straight sword, and the axe.

A monk named Szu Kung Pei developed a style called Shang Tiao Hsia Kou Chuan, also called Fake Boxing (because the opponent was fooled by fake out moves that appeared to strike in one direction but instead did so in another, which consisted of high blocks and low combinations of strikes. He devised the technique of rolling up and deflecting a blow with one arm while simultaneously striking with the other. This move is seen in many Northern Chinese martial arts, especially in the fourth element fire form, of Hsing I, and the fifth form of the Moslim Tan Toi.

During the end years of the first Tang Emperor's reign, his two sons fought amongst themselves. By 626, the second son, Li Shih-Min, murdered the first son and forced his father to abdicate, giving him the throne (until his death in 649). During his reign, China continued to prosper, smashing the power of the nomadic tribes. Also during these times, a Buddhist temple, later affiliated with Shaolin Chan sect, Lin Quan Yuan, was built in the south of China near Pu Tian County in Fujian Province.

The early T`ang rulers, including the Empress Wu (reigned 683-705), a former imperial concubine, were generally able monarchs, and they were able to continue to cultivate China`s prosperity. By the time that Emperor Li Shi Min died, the court ministers had succeeded in becoming very influential and conspired to undermine imperial rule and direct it to themselves. The next emperor, Kao-Tsung, had little effect against these ministers. In 655, he promoted one of his concubines, Wu, to Empress. By 660, the emperor was ill, and Wu led the government instead of him, after disposing any opponents. Emperor Kao lost interest in Buddhism, and turned solely to Taoism, while she supported both. She was able to garner much support outside of the ministry, especially among the Buddhist-Taoist clergy. All rebellions against her failed. By 690, she wiped out the Tang dynasty Li clan and took the throne as a `Holy and Divine Emperor` of a new Chou dynasty. She developed Lou Yang as an eastern capital. Finally, in 705 court officials deposed her and restored the Tang Dynasty.

In 702, the Tang Dynasty had developed a system to confer titles on eminent martial artists by means of a test, which did much to encourage the promotion of the martial arts among the people. Martial competitions were held to choose warriors and officers were promoted in a similar fashion. Imperial troops were able to increase the empire`s borders greatly and there was a great need for skilled warriors. Also, local warlords and landlords needed skilled martial artists to help protect the provinces in which they ruled. Body guards and security forces were needed to travel along the silk routes (were they interacted with people from many cultures and exchanged their martial arts knowledge with them, especially Moslims, who were very good at their martial arts).

The period saw another flowering of the Chinese martial arts, due to a strong emphasis on war and power throughout the empire. From 712 to 756 AD, Hard Chi Gung exhibitions became popular throughout the empire, such as feats of physical strength and skill, acrobatics, and withstanding the blows of weapons. Lion Dances began as well. Also, Jiao Li continued to be popular as in the past dynasties and during this time it was not only taught in the palaces, but became a professional occupation with teachers giving instruction to civilians. The sword had became less important on the battle field and now had became a principle weapon for the common person. Sword exhibitions continued to remain popular until the end of the Tang Dynasty.

Other martial arts were mentioned in records that also date from the Tang Dynasty:

The T`ang dynasty did heavy recruiting of soldiers from the Moslim communities in the western part of China. The Moslim Chinese in the west practiced their own types of martial arts that over time had mixed with Chinese folk and military martial arts. One such style was called Jia Zi Quan (frame boxing) and was composed of a Da Jia Quan (large frame boxing that had fully extended, long fist type movements, and Xiao Jia Quan (small frame boxing) that had quick, compact, short fist type movements. According to the Cha Family Boxing Chronicles, Jia Zi Quan was a popular and very old Northern Chinese fighting style, originating around the same time as Shaolin was developing. The style is based on quick, agile movements interspersed with sudden stops and steady still stances, performers are said to be `now moving like the wind, now standing nailed to the ground.`

Sometime during the Tang period, the Emperor sent a military crusade on an expedition to eastern China, to fight off foreign invaders. A wounded General, Hua Zong Qi, was left to recuperate from his severe wounds in a small village in Guan Xian county, Shantung Province. In appreciation for his care, General Hua taught the people his Jia Zi Quan. Due to his great wu shu skills and earnest teaching methods, he soon had such a large number of students that he invited his senior fellow apprentice Cha Yuan Yi to come help him teach. Hua specialized in Da Jia Zi and Cha specialized in Xiao Jia Zi. After Hua and Cha died, their followers renamed the style in their honor; Xiao Jia became Chan Quan and Da Jia became Hua Quan. Both of these were still considered as one true style with people learning both aspects, sometimes called Hua-Cha Quan. The Hua Quan aspect had four routines, with three of them being long forms with varied techniques. The Cha Quan aspect had ten routines, of which the first four are most generally known. The forms were passed down mostly amongst the Moslem Chinese communities and were closely guarded.

The Cha Quan`s 10 routines were of varying lengths and complexity. The general characteristics of the Cha-Hua style are that its movements and techniques are graceful, easy, clear, continuous, and rhythmic in execution. Strength and force is generated abruptly and there is economical use of energy. The boxing method stresses using both the hands and feet at the same time when executing fighting movements. Continuous attacks are employed, combined with various tricky moves to evade and deceive the opponent, in order to quickly overcome the enemy.

The names of the ten forms are:

1.Mu Zi (Mother and Son)
2.Xing Shou (Parallel Hand Movement)
3.Fei Jiao (Flying Foot)
4.Sun Bin (name of famous General Sun Bin)
5.Quan Dong (Eastern Gate)
6.Mai Fu (Ambush Tiger)
7.Mei Fa (Plum Flower)
8.Lian Wuan (Continuous)
9.Long Bai Wai (Shake Dragon`s Tail)
10.Chuan Quan (Vertical Fist)

Many of the Cha routines are used today in various Northern long fist schools, especially the 4th Routine and 5 Routine. Both versions have made a huge influence on latter day Shaolin Quan and the modern Chang Quan (long fist) practiced in China today, which has chosen to use many of the techniques from the Hua-Cha style.

Another style developed during the Tang dynasty that was also called the Hua style, but the Hua character meant `China` as in Zhong Hua. During the Kai Uan reign of the Tang (713-741), a knight from Mount Hua named Cai Mao killed an enemy of his who was a member of the noble family of Chang`an. He went to hide in Ren Cheng, which is now called Jin Ing in Shantung province. Cai was a skilled martial artists in both fist and sword fighting. He passed on his art to his descendants. (400 years later, during the Sung Dynasty, Cai Tai and Cai Gang developed the style to look like its present form and it was again perfected during the Ching Dynasty by Cai Wan Zhi.)

Mentions are made of styles that people called Mien Chuan (Cotton boxing) and Jou Chuan (Soft boxing). Martial arts flowered among the Taoists. As with the general public, the art of Jiao Li (present day Shuai Jiao) was greatly enjoyed and it became a popular Taoist practice, such that it was sometimes called `Taoist Wrestling`. Another martial art that Taoists practiced was called Feng Shou Quan Shu (`Hand of the Wind`). This was a self defense method that used a `Wave Hands Like Clouds` type of technique.

A martial artist known as Xu Xin-Ping (or Xu Xhuan Ping) wrote about an art called Tai Chi Kung. Xu was from southern China, from the Zi Yang Mountain, in Hui Zhou district of the Anhui Province. He had learned the art from someone named Yu Huan-Zi (or Yu Fan Zi), who taught Xu a form called San Hsi Chi (`three generations and seven`), also called the `37 Patterns of Tai Chi`. It was said to be similar to a form of fourteen postures from another style practiced in Anhui Province also called `Tai Chi`s `Nine Little Heavens`, which arose more than a century later during the Later Liang Dynasty (907-923 AD) and was developed by Hen Kon Yu. The form was long, flowing, and continuous and, because of its length, was thus also called Chang Quan or Long Fist. The description of these movements seem similar to those known as the Thirteen Postures in modern day Tai Chi Chuan. Some of these movements were named `Shoot snow goose with a bow`, `ajust pan posture`, `The sparrow lifts its tail`, `flip fingers`, `Tan Mountain is angry`, `Grind the mill`, `Hang on the tree and kick`. The names of other movements and their execution are very similar to those in the present day Yang Tai Chi Quan style, namely: high pat on horse, grasp bird`s tail, step up and ride tiger, wave hands like clouds, play the pipa, step forward parry and punch, single whip, repulse monkey, brush knee and twist step, fair lady works the shuttles, and so on.

The form was practiced one posture at a time until all 37 were learned; the form could be done with any of the 37 movements in no particular order. The footwork was designed according to the Five Elements theory and the arm work according to the Eight Trigrams or Ba Gua theory, thus all changes of movement were done according to the I Ching`s Yin-Yang theory. Xu taught Tai Chi Kung to members of the Song family. (Song Yuan-Qiao of the later Ming Dynasty was recorded as being a 14th generation successor of Xu.)

Later in Hubei Province, during the late Tang Dynasty, someone named Li Bao Zi (or Li Tao Tse or Li Dao Shan) practiced a style also known as Tai Chi Chuan Long Fist. Li was called the Master of Wu Tang. He called his style Hsien Tien Chuan (`Pre-Heavenly Fist`), which means the stage before the universe was created. This art was similar to that of the 37 Patterns/San Hsi Chi, although how he was influenced by an art from Anhui Province that was almost a century older is unknown. He taught his art to someone named Yu Lieu Chu (or Yu Lian Zhou), Yu Yi Cheng, Yu Qing Hui, and others of the Yu family. The Yu family carried on Li`s Pre-Heaven Tai Chi Chuan Long Fist from generation to generation.

Also, there was one more style that was called `tai chi` as well. It was created by someone named Yan Li Heng, who taught it to Wu Jing Zi (or Hu Chin Tze). Wu called the art Hu Tien Fa (`Post-Heavenly Method`), which means the stage after the universe was created. Wu taught the art to Song Zhong Shu. The style is composed of seventeen postures, which emphasize the use of various elbow movements. This style too has postures whose names and executions as similar to those of the Chen and Yang Tai Chi Chuan styles' Four Directions, namely: `ward-off`, `roll back`, `press`, and `push`, and Four Corners, namely: `pull`, `split`, `elbow`, and `shoulder strike`. The Four Directions and the Four Corners together form the Eight Changes of the Ba Qua (Eight Trigrams). In the movements of the Four Directions, energy follows direction (like a circle in a square). The movements consist of backwards moving steps. In the movements of the Four Corners, direction follows energy (like a square within a circle). The movements consist of forward moving steps.

The An Lu-shan Rebellion

Most of the T`ang Dynasty`s accomplishments were attained during the first century of the dynasty`s rule, through the early part of Emperor Hsuan Tsung`s long reign from 712 to 756. He did much to increase the greatness of the empire by repairing many government problems. However, late in his reign he became enamored of the courtesan Yang Kuei-fei (died 756), a woman much younger than he, and neglected government affairs to indulge in his love of art and study. This led to the rise of viceroys, commanders responsible for military and civil affairs in the regions. Yang was allowed to place her friends and relatives in important positions in the government. One of Yang`s favorites was the able Turkish general An Lu-shan, who quarreled with Yang`s brother over control of the government, precipitating a revolt in 755. An Lu-shan was a powerful viceroy commanding the northwest border area. He had both connections at the imperial court and hidden imperial ambitions. He commanded an army of 160,000 Tang troops and used this power to seize both capitals, Luo Yang and Chang An.

The emperor fled the capital with an ill-equipped army. These troops soon rebelled and forced the emperor to abdicate in favor of his son. The new emperor raised a new army to fight the rebels. An Lu-shan was assassinated in 757, but the war dragged on until peace was not restored in 763, and then only by means of alliances that the T`ang formed with Central Asian tribes, and with help from Turkish nomads and Arab soldiers. Afterward, the Chinese Empire virtually disintegrated once again. After the rebellion of An Lu-shan, the central government was never again able to control the military commanderies on the frontiers. The provinces remained under the control of various regional commanders. Some commanderies became hereditary kingdoms and regularly withheld tax returns from the central government. The commandery system spread to other areas of China proper, and by the 9th century the area effectively under central government control was limited to Shaanxi (Shensi) Province. The dynasty continued to linger on for another century, but the T`ang empire never fully recovered the central authority, prosperity, and peace of its first century. Emperors ruling from 780 to 820 had to do so through the eunuchs and servants working at the palace. The next two emperors were murdered by the eunuchs, ensuring the instability of the government.

From 841-845, great religious persecutions occurred. Emperor Wu-Tsung, who consumed quantities of Taoist `immortality` elixirs and was considered as half-insane, attacked Buddhism. Confucian court officials convinced the government leaders and the Tang Emperor that much tax money was being lost to the many thousands of temples all over China. It was felt that people opened temples just to avoid paying taxes. Thus, it was ordered that the temples be burned down and what followed was hundreds of thousands of temples being closed down and many religions attacked, some being completely driven out. Buddhism suffered greatly, as the wealth of the monasteries was sacked and the shrines destroyed. Various sects of Buddhism were destroyed except for the Chan sect, because it didn`t rely on libraries and temples for its sufficiency, and the Pure Land sect, because it was too popular among the people. Shaolin was allowed to remain open, because of its help in beginning the Tang Empire back in 620. Many people sought refuge in Shaolin, and it was able to benefit from the many Taoists and other faiths that went there and shared their ideas, including martial artists from all walks of life. But even so, over time Shaolin lost most of its population and little was heard from Shaolin during the last decades of the Tang Dynasty. Much of the legendary status of Shaolin faded after the latter Tang period.

The next Tang emperor, reversed Wu Tsung`s decision and efforts were made by many monks to go to India and bring back copies of the sutras (The novel `Journey to the West` is a fictionalized account of one such trip). The invention of printing and improvements in paper making led to the printing of a whole set of Buddhist sutras (discourses of the Buddha) by 868. By the beginning of the 11th century all of the Confucian classics and the Taoist canon had been printed. Between 841and 907, books such as `Jioa Li Ji` and `Jiao Di Fu`, by Zhou Jian, describe how schools opened for the teaching of Xiang Pu, which was a mixture of Jiao Di (Shuai Jiao) and Quan Fa (boxing). Even the Emperor Zhuang Zong competed in Jiao Di, losing against Li Cun Xian.

Between 874 and 878, a Buddhist temple was built in the south, by the monks Guo Jiao and Zhuo Jian. It was named Zhen Guo Dong Chan Si (Temple of Eastern Contemplation and Establishing Tranquillity in the Country). Over time, the name was simplified to Dong Si. It was located in the Quan Zhou region, about two kilometers from Lake Dong Hu, near the central city. It was not a Chan sect temple, but of the Tian Tai (`Heaven`s Throne`) sect. But because the temple was named Dong Chan, they associated it with Shaolin and eventually the name stuck, after the 15th century. Because it was made of dry wood, the temple burned down four times.

Another serious problem of the last century of T`ang was the rise of great landlords who were exempt from taxation. Unable to pay the exorbitant taxes collected twice a year after the An Lu-shan rebellion, peasants would place themselves under the protection of a landlord or become bandits. Peasant uprisings, beginning with the revolt under the leadership of Huang Ch`ao in the 870s, left much of central China in ruins. In 881, Huang Ch`ao`s rebels, now numbering over 600,000 people, destroyed the capital, forcing the imperial court to move east to Luo Yang. Many noble people left China for Japan at this time. It is said that some brought with them their knowledge of martial arts and taught it to a few people in Japan. In Korea, some Chinese monks with martial arts knowledge entered temples there during the great religious persecutions and taught martial arts (thus, the origin of Tang Soo Do). Finally, after losing battle to imperial troops, Huang committed suicide in 884.

Another rebel leader, Chu Wen, founded a new dynasty, called Later Liang, at Kaifeng in Henan Province in 907, but he was unable to unify all China under his rule. This second period of disunity lasted only half a century. Once again, however, China was divided between north and south, with five dynasties in the north and ten kingdoms in the south.

To Be Continued ...

That's it for this issue! Click here to read article #21

Sal Canzonieri -

(c) 1998 / 2007 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri